Grays Athletic v Bowers & Pitsea
Carlos rescues a point for battling Blues writes StewieG
A goal ten minutes from time, scored by Grays Athletic stalwart Joao Carlos rescued a point for the Blues against unbeaten Bowers & Pitsea in a 1-1 draw at Parkside on Wednesday evening. However, this is not a game that will live long in the memory, with both sides feeding off scraps for long periods, with no real dominance from either side in midfield and neither keeper seriously overworked.
The early exchanges were honours even with both sides forcing a corner in the opening minutes but to no avail. The game was then held up for a period, following what could have been a nasty clash of heads, with Bowers No. 9 Max Cornhill coming off worse and forcing the visitors into an early change of personnel, with Jamie Dicks replacing the unfortunate Cornhill.
Bowers & Pitsea slowly started to gain a foothold in the game with ex-Blue Correy Davidson and Quentin Monville combining well down the right, only for leading scorer David Knight to hit the side netting with his shot back across goal. Blues’ best chance of the half followed shortly afterwards, when - following a foul under the linesman’s nose on Shomari Barnwell - Mitchel Hahn’s free kick skimmed through the six-yard without finding a Grays’ foot to poke it goalwards.
The deadlock was broken just after the half hour with the game’s first real piece of quality. With Grays appealing in vain for a handball, Bowers worked the ball across the midfield and down the right wing. The ball reached Correy Davidson who unleashed an unstoppable 20-yard rocket past Anderson into the Grays’ net. A deserved lead for Bowers, following a period of sustained pressure. Towards the end of the half Bowers captain Stokes picked up the game’s only yellow card for a rash challenge on Barnwell, but Adeyinka Cole’s free kick came to nothing.
Half time 0-1
The second half started with Grays much the brighter side and putting the Bowers’ goal under its first real test. With Carlos, Toner and Cole working well together down the left, a series of chances went begging, with Barnwell shooting wide, Okonkwo missing a header and Barnwell again getting on the end of a Mitch Hahn flick but unable to beat keeper Andrew Wilton.
Grays made their first change of the evening, when Michael Mignot went down awkwardly, to be replaced by Dennis Oli, who immediately started to impose himself on the game, winning balls in the midfield and giving the home side greater urgency up front. But despite every effort, ex-Blue Richard Halle led the visitors’ defence and repelled everything Grays threw at them. Equally though, the Blues’ defence looked assured, catching Bowers offside a number of times, and Ryan Mahal making a great last-ditch tackle on the hour when for once Knight broke clear. Bowers still looked dangerous when they ventured forward and Davidson tried his luck again from distance, just clearing the crossbar.
With 15 minutes remaining, Adeyinka Cole was replaced by Barry Cogan, who also brought new energy off the bench. With Oli holding the ball up well, Carlos and Cogan both had shots blocked by the Bowers’ defence. The equaliser came on 78 minutes with great work down the right by Ryan Mahal, who drove a cross into the six-yard box. Joao Carlos reacted the quickest, bundling the ball over the line from close range. On the balance of play, it was nothing more than Grays deserved.
There was, though, almost a sting in the tail, when the lively Monville - having switched wings - advanced down the left unchallenged and let fly from distance, beating Anderson’s despairing dive but not the upright. The ball rebounded too quickly to the advancing Knight who put his shot wide with the goal wide open.
The final few minutes were end-to-end, with fresh legs being brought off both benches but with little clear end product. A 1-1 draw was certainly a fair result, with neither side able to dominate and defences too well organised to break down. But certainly a good, hard-won point for the Blues who can take real heart from a battling performance and showing some real character to take a point against a well-organised opposition.
On Saturday, Grays travel to Felixstowe & Walton United for their first appearance in this year’s FA Trophy, a competition in which we have a proud tradition, as twice winners. So let’s get behind the boys !
Grays Ath : Anderson, Mahal, Finneran, Toner, Okonkwo, Muguo, Mignot (Oli 59), Cole (Cogan 76), Barnwell, Hahn, Carlos (Adeniji 87).